- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

A Herndon family is looking forward to Fourth of July celebrations on the National Mall, regardless of D.C. officials' worries that strict security will virtually close the city.

"We will be going again this year. It was unbelievable last year," said Marisa Reiter, 18, daughter of Said Abdelmagid, 53, of Herndon.

The high security, she said, will not deter nine members of the family, including an aunt from Brooklyn, N.Y., and a sister and her three children from Syracuse, N.Y.

Nevertheless, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams and D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton are worried that thousands will stay away from the parade, concert and fireworks that traditionally draw a crowd of spectators from many states.

Mr. Williams said conflicting issues are involved. "You have a situation where you're trying to stay open, and then you're going to close everything down. We have a tension between safety and security and openness."

"When they talk about closing down streets, I hear, 'Don't enter D.C.,'" Mrs. Norton said. "I see some signs of overkill. I hear some notions that I intend to hold them to."

However, she said, visitors to the Capitol have demonstrated tolerance for high security since the September 11 terrorist attacks. Police in the area are practiced and should follow security procedures quickly.

But "I worry that the screening will be too slow," Mrs. Norton said. "I hope we are looking at the way this is being done at the Super Bowl and Redskin games."

Sgt. Scott Fear of the U.S. Park Police, which is coordinating security measures with other police departments and federal agencies, said plans are not complete.

One measure, enacted over Mr. Williams' objections, is to erect double fences around the Mall and Capitol.

"A concept of a fence around the Mall is unacceptable," said Tony Bullock, communications director for the mayor. "It's almost like we are imprisoning people.

"The irony here is inescapable. The Fourth of July is to celebrate liberty and freedom.

"This is a tradition of long standing. The mayor wants to make certain that people are not discouraged from attending," Mr. Bullock said.

Sgt. Fear said the barriers are wood-slatted snow fences.

The inner barrier will give officers time to react if someone climbs over the outer fence, said Capitol Police Lt. Dan Nichols.

Open hours for the Mall have not been set. Lt. Nichols said the entry gates around the Capitol will open at 2:30 p.m. People are encouraged to bring water and sunscreen, discouraged from bringing coolers and backpacks and should prepare to be searched.

Police, including plainclothes officers, will be plentiful. Park Police Chief Teresa Chambers contacted 16 federal, local and state police agencies, all of which agreed to help, said Sgt. Fear.

"There's going to be a lot of police out there; more than in the past," Sgt. Fear said. "We're not closing the city to anyone. It's going to be safe and secure."

About 20 entries are planned through the double fences around the Mall, Sgt. Fear said.

"We don't want to close 14th Street," Mr. Williams said after hearing that numerous streets might be closed.

Some streets will be closed, but Chief Chambers said police will work with the mayor for an agreeable plan. Sgt. Fear said some streets had been closed for other July Fourth celebrations, especially streets nearest the annual fireworks display.

Mrs. Norton said she heard that the 14th Street and Memorial bridges might be closed in the early evening on July Fourth. She opposes such closures.

As in recent years, people are encouraged to use Metro.

The day's celebrations will end with a concert on the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol, followed by 20 minutes of fireworks on the Mall near the Washington Monument.

This year, the 8 p.m. concert features Aretha Franklin, the National Symphony Orchestra, Chuck Berry, the Charlie Daniels Band and Jane Monheit.

It was the fireworks display last year that fascinated the Abdelmagid family, who previously watched the celebrations on television.

"It is so much better than what you see on TV," Miss Reiter said.


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